Thursday, 11 July 2013

Seals of the Archangels in the Bernardakean Magical Codex

As an introductory note, I must thank my anonymous friend from Greece, who decided to aid my scholarly research and sent me a photocopy of a book published by the Academy of Athens, the transcript of a 19th century magical work called the Bernardakean Magical Codex (Bernardakeios Magikos Kodikas)

The ammount of material in this book is simply staggering: traditional European grimoires, Arabic spells, charms and amulets, folk remedies and kabbala, all transcribed in one great compendium in Greek. This is a volume I will be continuously drawing from. 

One part that interests me is the transcription of the Heptameron, or at least a Heptameron-based section in the manuscript. It contains as expected the seven seals of the archangels. There is no doubt that the seals we have here draw directly upon the printed editions of the Heptameron and that is their direct source, so it is interesting to see how the seals change and morph in manuscript form when compared to their source, in this case knowing full well, their source. 

For the sake of comparison I will add there the seals as they are in the manuscript, complete with the astrological siglae that are also in the Heptameron and in one case, with the name of the Heaven associated with it (a simple click will enlarge them):








For practical reasons I chose to focus just on the seal, eliminating the other symbols and allowing us a more discerning look at their shapes. Their codes will be B.1 through B.7, for Bernadakeios:

 Seal of Michael (B.1)

The seal is slanted to the right and bears the mark of cursivity. The left section is very reduced from what we are accustomed in the Hept. seals, thhe horizontal line is elongated,  and the right descending line is now curved (similar in a way to the broken line in the CSS seal). The opened trapezoid is not separated from the base of the rhomboidal shape, but curiously joined, and a very peculiar feature is the ending: while the Hept. seals are terminated in a small elegant T, this seal ends with a very pronounced cross contained in a crooked circle. 


 Seal of Gabriel (B.2)

The left part, with the second figure going downwards continuously into a circle and the top circle seeming to be added after the completion, bears striking similarities to Hept2. Also, the bottom squares of the rectangular formation is missing, and we find that in Hept2. that is as well incomplete (although not missing entirely). The b-s and the A shape as well as the M shape are not changed, except for the usual rightward slant, but the ending is again very original: after the upward line and appended e-curl, we find it crossed through by another upward line, coming down into a curve, like a J. 

 Seal of Samael (B.3)

 This seal is also slanted to the right and seems a bit unbalanced, the left part being situated higher than the right. The cross is situated on top of the line and does not make one continuous angled line, the horizontal continues upwards in a 45 degree angle (not considering the usual scribal angle, this line is not parallel to that of the preceding cross) but a very interesting feature is that after the superior twist, the horizontal line does not have a semicircle, only a very small lower dash. Following this, the descending line is more likely a curve, ending in a very peculiar form quite different than the half-a-cross we see in the Hept. seals, and the circle atop the line crossing the figure is not intersected by the line, but rather joined to it. 

 Seal of Raphael (B.4)

The seal of Raphael is no less different. The beginning segment is reduced to a curve, rather than an angle, the first circle is quartered, not halved, and the horizontal line does not end with the circle, inside the enclosed figure, but continues well beyond that. 

 Seal of Sachiel(B.5)

 Curiously enough, this seal differs greatly from the Heptameron style. In thev  first figure, the horizontal line is not capped and the endings are curled inside. In the second figure, the vertical line is well slanted rightwards and the top part is not a fluid curve, but a small circular twist continued with a straight line, upon which a curl was added. The third figure lacks the hook in the left foot as we see in all Hept. seals, the vertical is slanted and the curve goes down and again up, unlike the Heptameron.

 Seal of Anael (B.6)

The first character is quite different from the Hept. versions. We do not have a circle or teardrop intersected by a triangle, but rather an elongated triangle that twists into a teardrop, much like in Clav.A.2. The second figure seems even more expedite, the body of the character is long, slender and straight, the circle is connected only to the top line and the bottom line arches up and forms the ending spiral. 

  Seal of Kassiel (B.7)

 Out of this series, the seal of Kassiel seems to be the most orthodox. The first character ends with a full circle, the second figure is topped by a curved line and the bottom also begins with a curve, much like Hept.1 and Hept.3, and the third figure only differs from the Heptameron in the middle curve of the form.

Conclusions: The Heptameron entered Greece probably in the 17th century in printed form, and this version is probably derived from it via another manuscript. The slight modifications show another hand at work before our scribe, that most probably copied it in the 18th century.


  1. Indeed! This very gentle and generous fellow offered to end me this completely free of charge without even knowing me, just based on his opinion of my work and wanting to help me further these studies so other people might enjoy them as well. Whenever we have the time he also translates passages of interest via Skype, although my tech conditions are lousy. I cannot thank him enough for his generosity and selflessness!

    I rarely can afford books on the subject, but this treatise was way out of my reach economically, geographically and linguistically!

  2. Interesting, do you know how these 'seal' works or manifest it's power? - can you ask your friend to read this: and if you have time, read this: I love the work, and I wonder if there a dictionary to these language ...